Turner Surname Genealogy


Turner is in England mainly an occupational name for a maker
of objects of wood, metal, or bone by the turning of a lathe.  It
from the Anglo-Norman French tornier.  The products of the
craft were wooden measures and a great variety of small objects used in
home, on the farm, and in industry.
Turner may in some places have been derived
from the name of the official in charge of a tournament (from the Old
French tornei);
or it may have been a nickname for a fast runner – from the fusion of
the Middle
English elements turnen, meaning “to turn,” plus hare
or hare.


Turner Resources on

England.  There was a guild of turners in London,
starting around 1310, which still exists today.
The heyday for furniture turners was the maple period of the
late 17th
century.  There followed a decline until
the mid-19th century when there was a revival of interest in the old

The earliest references to Turner as a surname appear to have been in
Oxfordshire.  Turners were quite numerous
in Norfolk by Elizabethan times.  An early surname spelling, found in Suffolk and Essex, was Tournour.

A Turner family of Mulbarton and Keningham in
Norfolk began in the mid-1500’s with William Turner, said to have been
servant of a local landowner.  Some of
these Turners later moved to Great
Yarmouth.  But Turners were still farming
on the land there in 1900.

There were a number of other Turner families at Great

  • Francis Turner was the minister of St. George’s Chapel for
    forty eight years in the mid-18th century and was the
    first of a
    distinguished Turner family based on Bracondale Hill.
  • while James Turner was
    head of the Yarmouth Bank in the 1770’s.  His
    son Dawson was a noted antiquarian, his grandson Frank a
    poet and
    man of letters.

Turners from North Elmham near King’s Lynn dated from the
mid-1600’s.  They were country
lawyers. However, a marriage connection
with the influential Walpole family enabled Charles Turner and his
descendants at
Warham to become baronets.

Some Turners prospered in trade and were able to
purchase country mansions:

  • the Turners
    of Kirkleatham in north Yorkshire began with John Turner, a wealthy
    London wool
    merchant from Herefordshire, who had acquired the estate in 1623.  His son William, Lord Mayor of London in
    1669, endowed the local hospital and had the school named after him.
  • while the
    Turners of Ambroseden in Oxfordshire had their beginnings with Richard
    Turner of
    Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire.  He
    came to London in the mid-16th century to seek his fortune.  His grandson John Turner, basing himself in
    the Canaries, grew rich from the wine trade; and Sir Edward of the next
    generation acquired Ambroseden in 1729 and became a baronet.

Other notable
Turner families of the 16th century were to be found in Berkshire and

Later, the Turner name became fairly widespread around the
country.  However, the largest numbers in
the 1891 census
were to be found in the north – with
Derbyshire and Staffordshire accounting for 40% of all Turners.

.  Thomas Dictas Turner was
recorded as holding
land in Aberdeenshire in 1382.  William
Turner, born there around 1645, seems to have been the forebear of
Turners who
emigrated to Maryland in the next century.

Turners in Scotland have been
associated with the Lamont clan of south Argyll and there were Turners
there in
the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Turner
name first appeared in Glasgow in the 1730’s and more Turners are to be

The best known Scottish Turner is probably Sir John Turner, a soldier
born near Edinburgh.  He was first a
mercenary, then a Royalist officer during the Civil War, and later the
of the Covenanters.

America.  John Turner was a passenger
on the Mayflower in 1620.  However,
neither he nor his two sons survived
the first winter in America.

Humphrey Turner, a tanner from Essex who arrived
with his family in 1628 and settled in Scituate, Massachusetts, did
survive.  His descendants became
long-term residents of the area.  A
branch under the Rev. Charles Turner later moved to Maine.
There is no relationship, according to the
Mayflower Society, between Humphrey and John of the Mayflower.

Robert Turner, an indentured servant from Norfolk,
arrived in Massachusetts in 1635.  His
son was Captain John Turner who prospered as a hat and shoe merchant
but died
at sea in 1680.  He left to his family his House of Seven Gables
home in Salem which
remained with the Turner family for three generations.
The house was immortalized in Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s novel of the same name and is now a town museum.

Early Turners in Virginia

  • Richard Turner who arrived
    there from England sometime in the 1680’s
  • and Terisha
    who was
    born in Virginia in 1709 and died there 92 years later.   

From Richard Turner came the line of James
Turner, Governor and Senator for North Carolina from 1802 to 1815.  James Turner himself was born in 1766 in
Southampton county where his family was briefly. Southampton county is
better known as the place where Nat Turner raised his slave rebellion
1831.  Nat Turner had been born on the Virginia farm of Benjamin
Turner in

Turner was a slave on the Port Royal plantation in Virginia in the
1820’s.  His son Alexander escaped and
emancipation moved north to Maine and later to Vermont

Canada.  Robert Turner from Bracondale in Norfolk came to Canada in
the 1830’s.  A wealthy lawyer, he built
his Bracondale Hill home in the
fashionable outskirts of Toronto.  The
house survived until 1937.


Turner Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Turner Names


was an early 19th century English Romantic landscape
Nat Turner led the largest
slave rebellion in the antebellum South in 1831.
Frederick Turner, an American
historian, is best known for his work, The Significance of the Frontier in
American History.

Lana Turner was a glamorous
American actress.
Ted Turner was the pioneer
developer of CNN, the cable news show.
Tina Turner has been called
“the queen of rock and roll.”

Select Turners Today

  • 125,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 125,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 61,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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